Ontario expands 'small but mighty' program that helps keep seniors healthy

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Ontario expands 'small but mighty' program that helps keep seniors healthy

Ontario expands 'small but mighty' program that helps keep seniors healthy

The Ontario government is expanding a "small but mighty" program that promotes active and healthy living among seniors, the province's seniors affairs minister announced Monday.

Dipika Damerla, wearing a hard hat at a Habitat for Humanity site on Pinery Trail in Scarborough, said the province has expanded its Seniors Community Grant Program, which was created in 2013, by adding a new grant stream. 

She said community organizations, under the expansion, can apply for new $100,000 grants for projects that benefit seniors. Given the larger amount of money now available per grant, the projects will be expected to do more, she told a crowd of people at the Habitat for Humanity site.

"This new stream will support projects that are larger in scope and complexity and have the capacity to benefit more seniors over time," Damerla said. "We are looking for projects that can be shared and adapted for use across communtiies and sectors and that leverage partnerships." 

Under the existing two grant streams, which are still available, organizations can apply for grants range from $1,000 to $3,000 in the first stream and from more than $3,000 to $12,000 in the second stream.

Up to $5 million is being made available for the next round of projects and applications are now being accepted, she said in a news release.

Damerla said at news conference that the program has allocated grants to more than 1,300 local projects in the past four years, benefiting an estimated 435,000 seniors across the province. 

"I have no hesitation in saying it is one of the government of Ontario's most popular programs," she said. "It is really small but mighty program."

Social inclusion among goals of program

The minister said hundreds of projects completed since the program began have focused on volunteerism, learning, social inclusion, mental well-being and physical activity.

Examples of projects that the province would like to support include courses for seniors on financial and computer literacy, community events and physical and learning activities, such as exercise and cooking classes. 

In the news release, Damerla noted Habitat for Humanity received a grant of $8,000 earlier this year to help expand its volunteer program and enable 50 seniors in the Kingston region to help build affordable housing in the community.

Ene Underwood, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in the Greater Toronto Area, said she is thrilled that the province is increasing its support for organizations that are enabling seniors to contribute to communities. 

"Habitat for Humanity GTA greatly relies on the time, talent and passion of senior volunteers to help ensure we can continue our work for more working, low-income families each year," Underwood said in the release.

The government estimates that more than two million seniors live in Ontario, a number that is projected to double in 25 years.

It says there are now more Ontario residents over the age of 65 than there are children in the province under the age of 15.